It was always going to be about December and, more importantly, January. The Minnesota Vikings, even with Tarvaris Jackson(notes) at quarterback, were going to win the weak NFC North. If you have that defense and that Adrian Peterson, you can hold off Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit and get back to the postseason.
So whatever Brett Favre(notes) did the first three months of the season would be for show – just like last year with the New York Jets. The end was for the dough and three Sundays into December it's beginning to crumble.
The team was listless Sunday, losing 26-7 to a lousy Carolina club. It's now 11-3 on the season, but 1-2 on the month. And, in the confrontation that will send the frozen Upper Midwest into a virtual meltdown, coach Brad Childress tried to bench Favre in third quarter only to have the quarterback somehow overrule him.
"Yeah, there was a heated discussion, I guess you would call it," Favre told reporters afterwards. "We were up 7-6 at the time. No secret, I was getting hit a little bit. I felt the pressure on a lot of plays. We had seven points. So I think everyone in the building was like, 'They're not moving the ball, they're not getting points.' Brad wanted to go in a different direction and I wanted to stay in the game."
Favre won that test of wills, which, may not be taken well within the Vikings locker room. Since when does the player get to tell the coach to shove it? Actually, it happens more than you think, which doesn't mean it isn't a significant sign about who's in charge of whom.
From afar, it didn't look like you could pin the loss all on Favre's surgically-repaired shoulder. His wideouts dropped too many passes. Peterson managed just 35 yards on 12 carries and not until it was too late did he break a nice screen pass open.
Then again, did Brett Favre really need to mention it? When it goes bad for Tom Brady(notes), he takes the blame and defends his teammates' talent, effort, performance. When it goes bad for Favre, he starts talking about secrets.
"I was getting hit a little bit. I felt the pressure on a lot of plays."
While Favre was rushed and pressured as he went 17-of-27 for 224 and one pick, he could've avoided at least a couple of those sacks. The guy holds onto the ball forever trying to make crazy plays, just one reason he's become so easy to take down. Yes, his line was lousy, but he could've adjusted.
Perhaps that's why Childress was willing to sit a man he all but begged to come out of retirement, allowed to skip training camp and watched earn MVP talk – for Jackson, presumably, a player who's thrown 15 passes all season.
"We were having a conversation about how the game was heading at that point in time and what we needed to do to head it the other way," Childress would only say.
When Jackson is the other way …
This is not the first time Childress has been unable to pull Favre from a game according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The coach tried to sit Favre during a 17-point victory at Detroit earlier this year only to have Favre refuse (in six other victories, Favre sat late in the game). Perhaps against Detroit he wanted to pad his stats. Perhaps he didn't want a backup to get a chance. Perhaps he just "loves to play the game" as the announcers slobber.
Perhaps he ought to figure out how to help his teams finish as strong as they start. And while you can't blame him for looking crossways at Childress and saying, "I'm Brett Favre, he's Tarvaris Jackson" sometimes that isn't the point.
Not all of Childress' instructions were carried out on Sunday night.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
"We were up 7-6," Favre said postgame Sunday about the "conversation." "Yeah, it's not 70-6, but we're up 7-6. So I said, 'I'm staying in the game, I'm playing.' I don't know if it was exactly to protect me, or we had seven points, I'm not sure. That's his call. But we talked it out.
"I didn't have time to sit there and say why or what. My response was, 'We've got to win this ballgame and I want to stay in and do whatever I can.' Now, unfortunately, I didn't do that, but that was my intention."
Yes, unfortunately. Favre's intentions have always been easy to identify. He wants individual glory wrapped in team success. When it works, it really works. When it doesn't, everything blows up.
"I could sense we were struggling, and there were a lot of reasons for that, and I've got no problem taking that on my shoulders," Favre continued, showing, by mentioning "a lot of reasons" that he's got a problem taking it on his shoulders. "That's what I'm here for.
"But in no way being up 7-6 and being banged around a little bit, would I consider coming out. I don't even know if I would consider that being down 70-6. But winning the ballgame? I don't know. … But believe me, I wanted to get something going, I wanted to score points. I don't know the answer to that question of what his reasonings were."
He probably didn't care. When you install Brett Favre as our quarterback, you don't get to make a second decision. You get a QB who's not sure he would accept a benching down 70-6. You're all in with this guy, or he's going to defy you on the sideline, argue with you in the media and keep inviting sacks while waiting to throw balls all over the field.
This was the deal Childress made in the calm warmth of summer. Now it's winter in Minnesota. The season is in the balance, Brett Favre is still talking.